INTRODUCTION: Following the assassination of his father, Walid Jumblatt has been proclaimed leader of Lebanon's secretive Druze community.
INTRODUCTION: Following the assassination of his father, Walid Jumblatt has been proclaimed leader of Lebanon's secretive Druze community. Hundreds of Druze Moslems gathered at their headquarters in Beirut, on Monday (21 March) to pay homage to Walid, and offer their condolences over the death of his father, left-wing leader Kamal Jumblatt, who was shot by unknown assassins while travelling in his car.
SYNOPSIS: Following Kamal's death, more than a hundred Christians died in clashes between them and t he Druze - who blamed the Christians for the assassination. The incidents have created fears of a renewed outbreak of the civil war. Syrian soldiers of the Arab peace-keeping force in Lebanon have been keeping a close watch on the situation.
Leading political, religious and military figures attended the ceremony at the Druze centre in Beirut, the Lebanese capital. Religious leaders arrived in force, giving an indication of the importance attacked to the occasion by the community, which has 200,000 members in Lebanon. Kamal Jumblatt's death has left a vacuum which the left-wing of the country will have trouble filling. He was not only the major left-wing spokesman in but his death could end the allegiance between the Druzes and the Progressive Socialist Party, which he formed in 1949. Walid Jumblatt has not shown a liking for his father's individualistic type of politics.
Ambassadors from 15 countries, including European and t he United States, the Soviet Union, and Arab, eastern block countries, offered their condolences to the new Druze leader. With the threat of renewed fighting still hanging over Lebanon, Walid Jumblatt called for restraint and calm. He said such composure would foil the plans of the "conspirators" seeking to undermine the unity of the country.
But Progressive Socialist Party militants held a demonstration in Beirut, calling for justice for the killers of Mr. Jumblatt. They were driving a car with Syrian registration marks, but the killers themselves were not identified. There has been much speculation, however, about the possible motives.
Mr. Jumblatt's death has added an extra burden to the already over-stretched Syrian peace-keeping force which backed the right-wing during the civil war. Failure to find the killers could lead to the Syrians' controversial presence being brought further into question.